What You Should Do When a Spiritual Leader Falls Into Sin—and What You Shouldn’t

by | Feb 17, 2017 | Spirit-Led Living

Note: Today is the 25th anniversary of prolific writer Jamie Buckingham’s death, yet this column he wrote for Charisma in 1992 still speaks a powerful word for our culture.

When Dan Rostenkowski, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was asked by a reporter if any of his checks had bounced in the congres­sional bank, he swore—and sneered, “None of your busi­ness.” The question, he said, was an intrusion into his pri­vate affairs.

My older brother, a retired Army general who served at the Pentagon, says there are two worlds in Washington, D.C.: one inside the Beltway and another, the real world

Sometimes I think there are two worlds in the king­dom: one in the church and another, the real world.

Jimmy Swaggart, follow­ing his last escapade, stood before his congregation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and told them it was “flat none of your business” what he did with his personal life. That’s not living in the real world.

Swaggart’s case is sad, but remember this: The same thing could have hap­pened to thousands of others caught in “private” moments. Yet his situation once again proves a basic spiritual prin­ciple exemplified by the life of Samson: If God’s servant—especially a leader—will not discipline his own life, God will send the Philistines to discipline him.

In late November, Diane Sawyer and ABC presented a Prime Time Live exposé of three other well-known televangelists: Larry Lea, Bob Tilton and W.V. Grant. The media presentation raises serious questions on both sides of the camera.

First, when a major network sets out to discredit a major Christian ministry, accusing it of dishonesty, is it right to use dishonest methods to obtain information? In the case of ABC, they used hidden cameras, lied to some people they interviewed and misrepre­sented their intentions to others. As usual, they edited the tapes to make the people say exactly what they wanted them to say.

That’s gross dishonesty.

On the other hand, if men of God are misrepresenting facts on television—telling their viewers one thing and doing another, and some­times, outright lying—they need to be exposed.

Some of the things re­vealed on the Prime Time program, if true, are a dis­grace to the kingdom. To his credit, Tilton went on television the next day and tried to honestly answer the charges. That’s better than the stan­dard approach, which says the Philistines are once again persecuting the good guys. Unfortunately, some of those accused have used the exposé as an opportunity to raise money to fight the “persecutors.”

God requires more from leaders than cheap theatrics and glitzy lifestyles. Leaders are called to set an absolute standard of personal purity and frugal living. That’s the way it should be.

What should we do, then, when a leader is exposed in his sin? To start, we ought to weep. Then we should do our best to rescue and restore, reaching out in hopes the wounded one will reach back. Remember, none of us knows what is going on in the “heavenlies.” This is certain: God cares little about “ministries”—neither their size nor their image. He often allows entire institu­tions to crumble—just to get leaders to the place where they no longer rely on self, but rely on Him.

God’s greatest enemy in humans is our self-confidence. Everything He does is determined to tear that down. If we will not humble ourselves before God, He will use the media or any other Philistine force to humiliate us before others.

One TV preacher who drives a $100,000 automobile seemed genuinely baffled when he was criticized in the press as being “flamboyant.” I asked him: “But why do you drive a $100,000 car?” He replied with a straight face: “A man in my kind of ministry needs good, solid transportation.”

He, too, is out of touch with the real world.

In the movie City Slickers, a conver­sation takes place between two married men who go on a vacation to a western ranch without their wives. Around the campfire, one asks the other if he would commit adultery if no one else in the world ever found out.

It’s a good question, for it strikes at the heart of all ethics. Actor Billy Crys­tal gives the right answer: Values are not determined by who knows. They are absolute even if no one else is watching.

Unfortunately, sticking with values because they are right—not because you might get caught if you violate them—seems to be a fading character quality.

Time magazine criticized the members of Congress for placing themselves above the law. Some Christian leaders have done the same. They don’t know how to live when they are their own employers.

Here’s a basic truth: If we don’t dis­cipline ourselves, God will make cer­tain we are disciplined by others. It’s just possible the media might be His gift to the church—a Philistine force designed to keep us truthful. {eoa}


Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


Kingdom Economics: Choosing a Better Way—God’s Way

Kingdom Economics: Choosing a Better Way—God’s Way

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its third and final estimate of second quarter GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and its PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditure Price Index). Since core (less food and energy) PCE is one of the Fed’s preferred measures of...

Orthodox Jew: The Miraculous Return of the Red Heifer to Israel

Orthodox Jew: The Miraculous Return of the Red Heifer to Israel

Read Time: 4 Minutes, 4 Seconds American Airlines flight 146 touched down at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport on time, arriving from New York’s JFK airport as one of the dozens of flights that arrive in Israel from the US daily. While a regularly scheduled flight, among...

Brother Andrew Was My Hero

Brother Andrew Was My Hero

When Andrew van der Bijl was a young man, doctors told him he was “too weak to travel” because of his chronic back pain. That advice seems absurd now, when we look back on the life of this legendary evangelist who came to be known as “Brother Andrew.” After he started...

Messianic Rabbi: The Last Words of Moses, Yeshua—and You

Messianic Rabbi: The Last Words of Moses, Yeshua—and You

As I get older, I find myself reading the Bible and seeing the text as if I was wearing a different pair of glasses. I am not talking about the fact that as I have gotten older, I have actually had to start wearing glasses. I am speaking more of the way I view the...


Prophetic Revivalist: The Significance of the Hebrew Fall Feast Season

We have just entered a new Hebrew month called Tishrei on the Jewish calendar. As we proceed on this month in the celebration of the fall feasts of the Lord, it is vital to know the holy days and...
Elvis Presley’s Charismatic Faith on Display in New Book

Elvis Presley’s Charismatic Faith on Display in New Book

A new book called “The Faith of Elvis Presley” explores the spiritual side of the iconic “Heartbreak Hotel” singer, asserting that Elvis was a devout Christian who prayed for the infilling of the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. The author, Billy Stanley, whose mother...

Joseph Mattera: 7 Traits of the Sown Life

Joseph Mattera: 7 Traits of the Sown Life

Paul said he was a "drink offering." This meant that he offered his very life, spirit, soul, and body, to the Lord and to His church as a "living sacrifice" (Num. 15:4-10; 2 Tim. 4:6; Rom. 12:1-2). He also said he not only "spent" but "was spent" for the gospel (2...

Pin It on Pinterest